Between Emir Sanusi, Ministers and the Nigerian Economy
The Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness, Muhammadu Sanusi II, recently took a swipe at the Federal Government over what he described as their failure to properly market the country at the last US-Nigeria Investment Summit held in Washington, DC.
The Emir lambasted some government officials for missing a meeting with potential investors at an investment summit organized by the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, despite some of the ministers being in the United States.
Sanusi described to Nigerians how investors were kept waiting for an hour only to meet with just one out of the eight ministers schedule to be at the summit where Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was expected to lead the Nigerian team.
In an interview with journalists at the end of the summit, Sanusi said Nigeria may have lost an opportunity to attract foreign investors due to the attitude of the ministers and the poor arrangement by the embassy.
The furious emir recounted; “we had a meeting today with investors, we were supposed to start by 9am; we started at 10. “When I came in, they took me to the Ambassador’s office to sit down, while investors were waiting down there. We had a list of people who were to be there – the Vice President, ministers and some of them are in town but they did not attend the meeting.
“The U.S Commerce Secretary and some top investors came for the meeting but Nigerian ministers who were in Washington did not attend the meeting to speak with them on how to invest in Nigeria. That is not how you attract investors. If you have this forum in the Rwandan embassy, I assure you President Kagame himself would be there telling people to come to Rwanda.”
From the obvious absence of the Vice President Osinbajo and most ministers, to the late commencement of the event and even a faulty public address system, the investors experience at the embassy was anything but encouraging to anyone looking to do business in Nigeria.
The royal father and former Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, said most times investors are influenced by how a country is packaged and presented to the world. “There is absolutely no reason for the Nigerian embassy to arrange a ‘Nigeria is Open for Business,’ forum with ministers in town, with governors in town and not have the coordination that they are actually here to meet with these investors,” he said.
“I think we need to just look at those kinds of things that investors look at and have a very honest conversation – sector by sector, region by region, state by state and what we need to do to make those areas attractive.”
Since the emir’s attack, many ministers have come out to give reasons for their absence, with many claiming not to have either received a formal invitation, to others insisting they had not confirmed their attendance at the event, hence cannot be accused of shunning the event.
The Minister of Mines and Steel, Kayode Fayemi, for instance said he was not billed for the investment meeting. Fayemi said; “The minister and a few of his colleagues, during the said period, were attending some investment forum organised by the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting, CHOGM, in London.”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, further confirmed Fayemi’s claim. He said most of the ministers who were slated to attend the event were not invited and were not in Washington at the time.
Though the reasons given by the ministers may be tenable, the federal government, and indeed the embassy staff in Washington, must take responsibility for the less than impressive image of the country that was portrayed to the global community.
The laid-back attitude of most Nigerians to work was once again brought to fore at the US-Nigeria Investment Summit, with the tardiness, faulty equipment and even the inability of organizers to confirm the availability of the ministers’ at the meeting.
It is also appalling that while a strong economy like the US will send its Commerce Secretary to the summit, Nigeria failed to make a statement at the meeting with the presence of the Vice-President or even a representative from the ministries of finance, trade and investment, agriculture and other key sectors of the economy.
At a time when the country is still struggling with recovery following its exit from economic recession, government agencies should seize every opportunity to market Nigeria and attract investment that will lead to the much needed growth. The Nigerian embassy in the US and indeed the concerned Ministers should not have wasted an opportunity to woo the investors, by at least ensuring a representation from key ministries at the summit.
Beyond queries that are hardly ever answered, government agencies must think of devising means to punishing officials who waste government resources and failing to deliver of their responsibilities.
The Washington experience should therefore be seen as a wakeup call to rebrand Nigeria. National orientation campaigns like the ‘Good People Great Nation’ should be repackaged and sold to Nigerians, so that citizens would begin to own the Nigerian project and put an end to lackadaisical attitude that could lead to the embarrassment witnessed at the investment summit.